Yugoslav Youth, Urbanity, and Modernity in The Unpicked Strawberries (Grlom u Jagode, 1976)

In 1975, Srđan Karanović directed The Unpicked Strawberries (Grlom u Jagode),​1​ a ten-episode Yugoslav comedy-drama mini-series featuring documentary footage and pseudo-documentary elements that ended up becoming a cult reference. The ten episodes are structured in a uniform way. They all open with fictional interviews, shot like a documentary, of Bane (in his 30s) and his friends who introduce the main theme of each episode. The interviews are then followed by archival footage of the city of Belgrade and each episode ends with documentary images of world events that took place during the year that the respective episode is set. While the documentary elements of the series help to embed the storyline in a historical context, the interviews carry a dose of sentimentality and nostalgia for the 1960s – the time of the main character’s childhood and adolescence –, and help introduce their outlooks on the dynamics and issues that dominated and occupied the lives of the Yugoslav youth over that decade. Still, the main feature of the show lies in the narrative portion of each episode.

The series nostalgically portrays a post-World War II generation growing up in the rapidly changing Socialist Yugoslavia during the revolutionary 1960s. It follows 15-year-old Branislav Živković (Bane), his friends Boca, Uške, Goca, and Miki, his lower middle-class family, and an array of colorful side characters who, over the course of the ten episodes, accompany Bane on his path to becoming a modern, metropolitan, and civilized adult. One may identify Bane’s character as a modern hero, or rather a hero of modernity, a confused, restless, alienated, childish, and often comical character who is perpetually rushing headlong on his search for meaning and adventure in the increasingly disordered world that was beginning to replace the stability and predictability of traditional Balkan society. This change manifested both physically and culturally. While large modernist Socialist development projects permanently changed the structure of traditional Balkan neighborhoods, the old-fashioned and rigid set of parental expectations vis-à-vis their children (such as school attendance, financial stability, early marriage, and parenthood) was challenged by a new and rapidly changing world that threatened the previous order.

While a general concept of modernity linked to the idea of constant change can be traced back to the Enlightenment,​2​ it translates differently in the two post-1917 ideological regions. Eastern (Socialist) modernity is connected to the Soviet utopian political project and shows a greater degree of complexity due to historical economic underdevelopment and abrupt political transition towards Socialism. It is also characterized by great paradoxes. Among others, tight top-down control (state government) is poised against grassroots organizations, the challenging economic transition of an agrarian society is coupled with grand development projects, and the modern tendencies of the underground culture destabilize the rigid expectations of traditional societies.​3​ Western modernity, on the other hand, flourished in the market economy,​4​ emerging consumerism, and popular culture,​5​ and was characterized by its focus on individuality, the embrace of constant change, an abandonment of traditions, and increased insecurity caused by uncertainty.​6​ The series takes place in the city of Belgrade that is in a rapid process of modernization as it transitions from a war-torn historical urban capital developed under the influence of past empires (notably the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) towards a European cultural center with the traits of both Eastern and Western modernism. Belgrade features as a multiethnic city open to everyone, from wealthy urbanites working abroad, who helped introduce Western values to Yugoslav society,​7​ to poor farm workers searching for economic opportunities in the cities, who brought “patriarchal and sometimes even feudal” social relations with them.​8​ The series records and comments on the atmosphere, dynamics, and practices that emerged in Belgrade during this lively decade marked by hope and social change. It is important to mention that Belgrade, like many Yugoslav cities, was a true Balkan city in the sense that it incorporated many historical influences – Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Socialist, among others. These influences are especially apparent in Bane’s neighborhood. Furthermore, the series features a post-war urban generation torn between Eastern Socialist utopian values and Western consumerist aspirations. The series can also be understood as a commentary on the political and economic system: the Yugoslav evolving brand of Socialism that shaped urban life and imposed values and expectations that directed the lives of the Yugoslav youth. Yugoslav openness to Western modernity can be understood as “a symptom of the break from the Soviet circle and of democratization and liberalization (however limited) of the society”.​9​ Yugoslavia at the time was “the American communist ally” open to Western influence and considered “modern, free, and market-oriented”.​10​ The show documents this Westernization mainly through the embrace of Western pop culture (e.g. music and films) and consumerism (e.g. cars, fashion, and supermarkets). On the other hand, Socialist values are also apparent. Rapid industrial development and urbanization brought social changes such as free education, social housing, and the (partial) emancipation of women.

The series beautifully conveys the tension between an individual desire for fulfillment beyond the limitations of social class and the more traditional collective aspirations defined within one’s social class. Ultimately, it is the loyalty to the collective and assuring predictability of his community, combined with a limited social mobility, that set Bane’s life expectations and dictate the framework of his possibilities.

This article offers an in-depth analysis of The Unpicked Strawberries to address three core arguments. First, we argue that the Yugoslav youth’s outlook on life, their relationship to the city, and their sense of hope about the future were partially a product of the underlying tensions pertaining to modernity and, specifically, the urban experience modernity produced. Second, the Yugoslav youth’s maturing process runs parallel to the post-war urbanization process, which are both products of an underlying tension between a particular brand of a Socialist value system and Western influences. Third, the ideas formed and shaped by the urban entity of the neighborhood, a community centered around family, friends, and neighbors, provided a sense of belonging and grounding, connecting the youth to a different set of expectations that impacted and shaped their desire to affirm themselves in the world. Finally, the last part will briefly address the related sequel film Caught in the Throat (Jagode u Grlu, 1985), also directed by Srđan Karanović, to show the outcomes of the dreams and expectations of the youth featured in the series.

Modernity between East and West and the Concept of Community

Marshall Berman introduces his famous book on modernity All that is Solid Melts Into Air with the following statement:​11​

There is a mode of vital experience – experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life’s possibilities and perils – that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience “modernity”. To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.

The concept of modernity is linked to a special type of experience that is characterized by both the newly found freedom to explore the world and reinvent oneself, and a sense of insecurity caused by a loss of traditional values and stability. It has been extensively employed to identify important shifts in individual and collective identities. A modernist individual embarks on a process of exploration and reinvention, seeking opportunities for new experiences and freedom from the chains of past circumstances and societal expectations.​12​ In search of meaning, the individual often feels alienated. To deal with the loss of stability, the modernist imitates and employs symbols of freedom found in consumerist culture.​13​ A modernist is rational,​14​ but also has a childlike sense of wonder​15​ and is often overstimulated with information due to his everchanging modern environment.​16​ Under the influence of modernity, urban communities and collectives undergo radical change. Here, formerly tight-knit communities are challenged by new softer associations that promise to guide the individual towards self-betterment.​17​ The urban setting, specifically the street, becomes a playground to exercise those new urban identities. A modernist city is packed with vitality, excitement, and possibilities.​18​

It is true that modernity is most commonly associated with Western typologies of democracy and the market economy.​19​ Yet if “modern societies are […] by definition societies of constant, rapid and permanent change”,​20​ then post-war Yugoslavia represents one of the most modern state-building projects. It was a special variety of Socialism, differentiated from the sister ideologies of the Eastern Bloc by its key role in and allegiance to the Non-Aligned Movement, a significant level of political decentralization, self-management, a partial embrace of private property, and a general openness to the West. In terms of political and economic development, Yugoslav modernity also had similarities with Soviet modernity. While both ideological projects were based on the utopian ideals of egalitarianism and collective values, research shows that the Yugoslav variety of Socialism greatly differed in its approach to implementing Socialist ideals. Yugoslavia achieved rapid modernization by initially centralizing political power and introducing a planned economy and later increasingly decentralizing the political power while allowing for (partial) self-management and (limited) market economic principles.​21​

While both brands of modernity (Eastern and Western) shared a common origin and were driven by the idea of continuous societal flux and transformation,​22​ in the post-1917 years they adopt different approaches​23​ mainly because of ideological differences. Completely destroyed, historically impoverished and with large agrarian societies, Socialist countries had a lot of catching up to do with the West.​24​

Culturally, Yugoslav modernity was open to both Eastern and Western influences. Depending on the political atmosphere at each given period, those influences intersected and transformed over time. Changes in the relation between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in the post-war years also led to weakened cultural links. President Josip Broz Tito’s openness to the West confirmed a Yugoslav craving for consumer goods and Western cultural exports (i.e. music, movies, art, and fashion).​25​ However, despite Americanization​26​ and the internal pressure in favor of a Yugoslav model of Socialism, there was agreement that the state’s cultural outlooks should remain Socialist.​27​

Bell and Newby​28​ propose three distinct analytical approaches to the concept of community. The term can be used to describe a) a physical area within a city, b) a sociological unit that measures interconnectedness and integration between locals and social institutions and c) an association that does not depend on a physical location or a relationship between residents and social institutions (e.g. clubs). In this article, “community” and “neighborhood” are used somewhat interchangeably, although “community” carries the additional connotation of acknowledging like-minded characters who are placed at an equal footing in the series. A community is seen as both a spatial (neighborhood) and cultural unit (local ethos) in which people form “sentiments, forms of conduct, attachments, and ceremonies which are characteristic of a locality”.​29​ While cities can be associated with weaker associations that are primarily formed to promote professional ties,​30​ city dwellers can also form kinship, friendship, and strong familial relationships with people in communities formed within the city.​31​ According to Park and Burgess,​32​ “proximity and neighborly contact are the basis for the simplest and most elementary form of association with which we have to do in the organization of city life”. Communal life is run by spontaneous social forces, meaning local culture has place-specific features that define how its residents act together and cooperate, as well as the values, rituals, and expectations that characterize a particular community.​33​

“The Unpicked Strawberries”: Youth, City, and Modernity

This article argues that the youth as featured in the series is a product of modernity, here understood as a special kind of experience that allows them to change, advance, and liberate themselves from the past and previous cultural traditions.​34​ The grown-up Bane introduced at the opening of the series looking back at his youth is an educated cosmopolitan who wears suits, attends cultural events, and travels across international borders. Young Bane is a nascent hero of modernity and over the course of ten episodes, he makes numerous attempts to liberate himself from the chain of everyday life and leave behind the comfort of his home in search of something extraordinary. His daily experience, a typical urban life in a lower middle-class Belgrade family, makes him disillusioned about life’s banality. To deal with his adolescent angst, he is often capricious, acts out by smoking, cutting classes, failing subjects, and running away from home. Although at first romantic, the appeal of escaping loses its momentum when it becomes clear to Bane that he is only running from himself. Bane’s friend sums it up: “That thing you are running away from is not something to run away from, it is something to conquer”.

Over ten episodes, he consistently attempts to escape everything that is near and familiar, mainly by interacting and living vicariously with people whose life appears exciting and unreachable. For instance, due to a short-term romantic involvement with Divna, a fellow poet, and through meeting her avant-garde, upper-class parents who enjoy having cultural conversations over lunch, Bane briefly experiences a life that appears free from the working class norms and limitations familiar to him and his friends. Bane and his friends are born in a war-torn country to the families of partisans who suffered greatly in the years after the war. Bane’s family survives on a single salary and his friends are children of waiters, factory workers, homemakers, and train conductors. With Divna, Bane enters a magical world of poetry in which he feels like a homo volans (flying man), as they refer to each other as “Little Prince” and “Beatrice”. The dichotomy between the dreamworld and everyday life is apparent in two instances: when Bane insists on a daily gift of freshly cut flowers, paid for by his overworked and unappreciated father, and during the couple’s awkward interactions with peasants at the local market.

Later, Bane’s quest to overcome stagnation and loneliness motivates him to enroll in dance classes. After being publicly humiliated by a popular couple, Steph (the English nickname of Sonja) and Steve (Stevica), Bane plots his revenge against Steph by studying her habits and interests, teaching himself how to dance, and developing a contrived worldly persona who smokes and drinks, listens to Radio Luxembourg, travels internationally, and knows a great deal about Little Richard and Elvis Presley.

Cursed by a perpetual desire for novelty and self-affirmation, Bane frequently switches between different habits and interests. Not a natural athlete, the urge to prove himself leads him to try various sports such as fishing, rowing, volleyball, ping-pong, boxing, soccer, skating, and handball. Realizing sports will not fulfill him, he explores the arts – painting, composing, forming a rock band, amateur filmmaking, crime novel writing, and poetry. Later in the series, Bane’s search for meaning turns into angst about the fleeting nature of life. He becomes a hypochondriac and obsesses over a rarely diagnosed cardiac condition, neurosis cordis. Firmly believing that he is dying, Bane tries to live life to the fullest, and he confesses to his friend Goca: “In this fast and alienating life, the most important is the purity and intensity of each moment… You never know if this pleasure will be your last”.

In a modern city, streets and urban spaces become hubs of activity and “a primary symbol of modern life”​35​ where socialization and spontaneous encounters take place.​36​ It is on the street where “this celebration of urban vitality, diversity and fullness of life” can be found.​37​ 

Belgrade, a historic city that was rapidly rebuilding, changing, and modernizing after WWII, was appealing to young people seeking the excitement that modern cities promise. The documentary footage of pre- and post-war Belgrade shows streets erupting with life, welcoming musicians, fashionistas, and students. The opening scene of the series shows Bane, in his 30s, standing in the middle of a moving and crowded urban setting with a little girl. Both stand out as alienated figures in the mob of busy people. The closing scene again features the main character as he walks across a bridge towards a modernist skyscraper. The scene captures the victory of urbanization as Bane moves away from the old, towards the openness and opportunities of the new.

In the series, streets and public spots become significant places that make possible vital personal experiences and where one forms new fleeting associations. For instance, Bane’s random meeting with a group of professional actors makes him realize the exclusivity of the bohemian circles he desires to join, a goal he ends up abandoning (as mentioned above). On the other hand, his encounter with Goca’s much less fortunate petty criminal neighbor Marko teaches him about his own privileges in life, resulting in a different type of personal crisis. The series shows easy and free access to various activities, such as open-air ice-skating rinks, sports fields, outdoor dance areas, and public parks. Bane’s fondest memories and most important social experiences were forged on the familiar streets of his neighborhood, on his way to school, and while interacting with neighbors and strangers. The familiar and accessible spaces of his neighborhood contributed to Bane’s quest towards self-affirmation. For instance, Bane learned to assert himself in the public dance hall, he discovered how to invent stories about himself to impress a girl in the skating rink, and learned to socialize within the familiar spaces of his apartment complex.

The modernist, on the other hand, affirms himself and experiences the city he inhabits through consumption. The modern city is therefore transformed into a place of consumption.​38​ The modernists’ free time is consumer-oriented: they need resources to experience the city, access places, explore their interests, and eventually self-actualize. To be modern and urban means to be able to keep up with new consumer demands.​39​

Both Bane’s urban experience and his interest in popular culture are products of modernity. The series suggests that Yugoslav urbanity was dependent on consumption, and urban trends became synonymous with a higher standard of living. The series uses money, housing, cars, fashion, and tourism to convey different facets of consumerism. Bane spends his youth trying to keep up with urban fads. He perceives money as freedom and access to everything good that life has to offer. The aspiration of the youth exceeds the income of their parents and even basic access to opportunities such as universities, mobility, housing, and recreation, require a sizable income. The characters dream about owning their own cars, which, for them, stands for open possibilities, movement, and prestige.

Between Yugoslav Socialist modernism and Western modernism

Yugoslav modernization aimed to achieve a standard of living similar to the West, but within a more equitable and humane socio-economic system and from the standpoint of an ideology that promoted “collectivist principles, and institutionalized togetherness and solidarity in various ways through the People’s Front, trade unions, …and the Party itself”.​40​ Rapid post-war modernization brought many changes, such as the replacement of traditional family relationships with new support systems and a breaking away from old traditions. It also enabled easier access to social housing, improved transportation, a higher standard of living, and the creation of a consumer culture.​41​

The series displays the values promoted and exercised in a Socialist society, such as the importance of self-discipline, the virtue of honest and hard work, the moral superiority of modesty over luxury, and the need for brotherhood and unity as against individualism. It depicts a multiethnic Belgrade in which families from different parts of Yugoslavia searched for a better life. The process of modernization can be observed in the government’s focus on industry, city planning, social housing, access to employment, education, healthcare, and local and international travel. Documentary footage of world events presented at the end of each episode shows milestones of modernization such as the grand opening of the tourist destination St. Stefan (1960), the apparel manufacturing company Jugoeksport (1960), Surčin Airport (1962), the construction of the hydroelectric power station Đerdap (1964), and the main square in Belgrade Terazije (1966). We also learn about significant political developments, namely, the first conference for the Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in Belgrade (1961) and the vote on a new constitution that reflects the attempts for Yugoslav decentralization (1963).

Yugoslav cultural identity was a convoluted mix of cultural influences, Eastern and Western, old and new, all of which helped build a unique modernist experience in the 1960s. Although considered a successful paradigm in the Socialist world due to its ability to adjust to both Socialist and capitalist expectations, the Yugoslav modernist experience was shaped by a set of interlinked and competing events as well as a long process of transition and evolution. Despite an official decision that Yugoslav culture should represent socialist values, by the 1960s Yugoslavia was rapidly turning towards Western modernism.​42​

The personalities of the characters in the series are influenced by a modern way of life and shaped by their hopes and dreams. However, the stable social structures reflecting more traditional traits, lead to a conflicting maturation process. This tension between societal expectation and a personal need to escape the pre-established norms is playfully explored throughout the series. While each episode features a specific challenge the characters must fulfill on their path to adulthood, Bane continuously chooses to explore alternative avenues. For instance, he must choose between respecting his parents and running away from home; timely graduating with a college degree and changing his college major numerous times; finding a stable job and illegally importing international goods, etc. Due to the rapidly changing times, the characters feel insecure about their future prospects. Moreover, while Bane and his friends are in some ways a product of the 1960s, they are also a part of a post-war process of collective rebuilding and struggle. This incongruity between Yugoslav reality and dreams cultivated by the West influences the characters’ development and life decisions they will go on to make later in the series.

The documentary footage also places Yugoslavia within a global context and introduces international events that marked the decade. Such events include the deaths of Albert Camus (1960), Marylin Monroe (1962), and Edith Piaf (1963), the popularity of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) and the Beatles (1964), and Anthony Quinn’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s visits to Belgrade (1964). The series also recognized the importance of President John Kennedy’s death and the election of President Richard Nixon (1968).

Western influences in Yugoslavia include the fading remnants of the Austro-Hungarian empire and culture that are kept alive mainly through Bane’s grandmother, Elvira, who still maintains fine manners and the grandeur of the past. Elvira likes to daydream about the English monarchy playing polo in the Windsor Park, supports Bane’s adventurism and bohemian conceit, and believes in sacrifices in the name of culture and self-betterment. Western influences also include the impact of French culture. Inspired by French writers Jacques Prévert and Honoré de Balzac, Bane decides to write poetry and novels. French culture is also present through the films of the French New Wave as the boys look up to Jean-Paul Belmondo, while the girls are inspired by the New Wave’s heroines.

However, enabled by the ongoing globalization and the public relations industry, the most prominent and potent influences come from American culture in the form of movies, music, and other products of the industry, which all paint a distant world of opportunity and social mobility.​43​

Eager to distance themselves from local culture and traditional Balkan values, which appear to the main characters as stagnant, outdated, and primitive compared to the dreamscape sold by the West, they fantasize about, and often comically imitate, Western trends, sometimes by resorting to blatant lies and imaginary stories. For instance, Bane boasts about a supposedly planned summer trip to Canada to perfect his hockey skills in front of his love interest Divna. A desire to escape the mundane predictability of the East in search of the unknown promises of the West constantly appears throughout the series. Bane gets close to escaping to the West twice – once when he attempts to run away from home, and another time when he decides to follow another love interest, a student of costume design, to Paris. The West is portrayed as a picture of wealth and possibility, blinding the impoverished and somewhat disoriented Yugoslav post-war society with promises of a different life. After many life lessons and a series of disappointments, somewhat failed by the system and his ideals, Bane realizes that his need to hold onto something more permanent is growing stronger. He embraces the stability of his community and home.

While large cities are often thought to have replaced the closeness of tight-knit communities with fleeting urban associations and weakened social bonds, research indicates that cities can also shape communities whereby its residents maintain close ties with family, friends, and neighbors and interaction is based on a sense of familiarity, solidarity, and belonging.​44​ Urban communities usually have a specific culture and breed unique interactions and choreographies, shaping the way urban dwellers live and cooperate. The local culture may form and promote expectations, features, and qualities specific to the community.​45​ Urban communities in Socialist Yugoslavia can also be seen as an extension of the Socialist ideological project, promoting the values of brotherhood and unity, and encouraging cooperation over individualism.​46​

Bane lives in a communal neighborhood in a modest Socialist multistory building, which, despite its bland first impression, bears a deep sense of community characterized by familiarity and chance, similar to the one Jane Jacobs (1992) captured in her famous book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. In her study of New York City, Jacobs warns against the alienating dangers of modern urban planning and describes the key features that universally govern, protect, and maintain the vitality of urban neighborhoods (in this, Jacobs’ New York is comparable to Bane’s Belgrade). Such features include the possibility to gaze at the street from one’s window, the power of diversity, the value of urban density, a sense of familiarity in the neighborhood able to foster trust and intimacy, etc. Not unlike the residents of Jacobs’ neighborhood, Bane’s building and its surrounding communal spaces attract an array of colorful characters, such as a group of opinionated grandmothers that guard the building from modern-age immorality, youthful noise and crime, a group of neighborhood kids mercilessly mocking anyone showing a sign of insecurity, a familiar informally dressed neighbor always ready to help, or a rigid schoolteacher rejecting the advances of flirtatious men. The neighborhood’s deeply social character manifests on the balconies where the eyes of the neighbors constantly monitor the streets, on the building hallways that are humming with the whispers of young people who gather to socialize, and on its buzzing streets. There, one may observe children riding bicycles, old men pulling milk carts, peasant women selling used clothes, Roma children fixing umbrellas, and working-class folks returning home from work. Neighbors assume the role of an extended family that is always available to share concerns, spaces, cultural rituals, and nourish each other’s urban experience.

The series features strong family ties in Bane’s happy but somewhat neurotic family, which is portrayed as a collection of unique characters: Bane’s worrisome mother Olja, his dedicated father Sreten, his loving sister Seka, the brother-in-law Tale, and the adventurous grandmother Elvira. While their love for each other is evident, a healthy level of tension still lingers in the house, caused by generational differences, a lack of resources, excessive parental supervision, and constant meddling in Bane’s life, whom they treat as an incompetent brat. The series also comments on the importance of friendship and comradery. Educated from an early age about the importance of togetherness, the main characters believe in friendship and stick together during challenging times throughout the series. Through their social bonds, the main characters learn about the importance of cooperation, and they always return to their friends after their short-lived individual adventures.

One of the defining characteristics of Bane’s community, which also happens to be the feature that grounds and directs the characters despite sometimes differing explorations of urban subcultures and worlds, is class-consciousness. The main characters in the show are connected by their similar socio-economic standing and, for the most part, are surrounded by people who come from similar social strata. The character’s ideals, aspirations, and choices are primarily shaped by their modest reality that sets life expectations within a limited framework of working-class norms. Bane, through his interests and unapologetic personal openness to the finer things in life, continuously flirts with the upper-class subculture and the consumer romanticism that comes with it. However, Bane grows up in a modest post-war home with limited access to elegance and refinery. It is therefore the simplicity of his community and his upbringing, combined with the place-specific post-war Socialist ideology, that set expectations and dictate the framework of possibilities. The transitional society that promoted equity and equal access to all was not always fair in practice as documented by the characters in the series, who often feel beaten and disappointed by this realization, and who eventually return to their community, the only place where they can truly be accepted.

What Happened Later

The Unpicked Strawberries (Grlom u Jagode) conveyed a specific kind of modern urban experience, shaped and informed by Yugoslav Socialist modernism, an experimental state building project that, over several post-war decades, embraced certain aspects of Western values and consumerism in particular. Industrialization and urbanization became the guiding principles of the Yugoslav Socialist state in its project to rebuild the country after WWII. Architecture and urban planning channeled political shifts from East to West, moving from large-scale Socialist realist housing projects inspired by the Soviet Union (e.g. New Belgrade or Novi Beograd’s urban housing project) to Western modernist architectural symbols (e.g. skyscrapers).​47​ Growing up in a rapidly changing political system, the characters in the series adopt cultural aspects of both Eastern and Western modernism. While socialism imprints utopian ideals such as brotherhood, unity, and collectivism, Western capitalism offers the promise of an easier and more attractive life where anything is possible, and this prospect colors the youth’s world as much as the socialist system of values and its promise of a more humane approach to development. Eventually, empowered by life lessons and faced with limitations imposed by the Yugoslav context, such as post-war hardships, lack of mobility, and Balkan traditions, the youth turn towards the community that grounds their youthful expectations. Although the modernist thirst for change and novelty eventually subsides, the series ends on a positive note. Bane becomes a modernist man empowered by his experiences, ensconced in his community, and looking forward to the new experiences that adult life offers.

A sequel film Caught in the Throat (Jagode u Grlu), also directed by Srđan Karanović, was released in 1985, in the midst of an economic recession and the decline of Socialism in Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe. In the 1980s, Yugoslavia was deeply unclear about its future, struggling amid an economic and political crisis and dealing with internal political tension. These dynamics are reflected in the sequel, as Bane resorts to alternative (and somewhat illegal) means to provide for his family, struggling to maintain the semblance of a middle-class life. While the characters, now in their early 40s, have started families, secured apartments, and developed professional careers, it is clear that the new political and economic perils start to threaten their stability. The film intends to peer into the lives of the beloved characters to witness the outcomes of their expectations, hopes, and dreams. The city of Belgrade, now in a process of political disintegration due to the economic crisis, plays a significant role in the film as well. One can argue that the failed Yugoslav Socialist experiment is reflected in the loss of context for the characters featured in the film sequel. The modernist hero Bane, now a father of two, is living in an unhappy marriage, still searching for something that was long lost (or perhaps never found). Bane’s friends, Goca, Uške, Boca, and Miki are also unhappy adults, disappointed, downtrodden, and defeated by life. In the film, the gang gets together one more time to welcome Miki upon his return from West Germany. However, the gathering, which was supposed to be a celebration of togetherness, turns into an embarrassing and escapist drunken orgy. Just as the system and the community that once offered stability began to disintegrate, so have the lives of the characters. Or, as Marx said, “To be modern is to be part of a universe in which all that is solid melts into air”.​48​


  1. 1.
    While widely used, the English translation of the title (“Unpicked Strawberries’’) does not capture the original title, whose idiomatic meaning translates to “recklessly’’ or “rushing headlong’’. Though seldom used, “Rushing Headlong’’ can thus be considered a more accurate translation of the original title.
  2. 2.
    Berman, M. (1988). All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity. Penguin Books, 9, 16-17.
  3. 3.
    Berman 1988, Introduction.
  4. 4.
    David-Fox, M. (2015). Crossing Borders: Modernity, Ideology, and Culture in Russia and the Soviet Union. University of Pittsburgh Press, Chapter 1.
  5. 5.
    Vučetić, R. (2018). Coca-Cola Socialism: Americanization of Yugoslav Culture in the Sixties. CEU Press, Introduction.
  6. 6.
    Berman 1988, 79-85.
  7. 7.
    Duda, I. (2017). Everyday Life in Both Yugoslavias. In L. Perović et al. (Eds.), Yugoslavia From a Historical Perspective. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, 400.
  8. 8.
    Duda 2017, 392.
  9. 9.
    Kulić, V. (2009). “East? West? Or Both?” Foreign perceptions of architecture in Socialist Yugoslavia’. The Journal of Architecture, 14(1), 131-132.
  10. 10.
    Jakovina, T. (2012). Historical Success of the Schizophrenic State: Modernization in Yugoslavia 1945 –1974. In Lj. Kolešnik (Ed.), Socialism and modernity: art, culture, politics 1950-1974. Museum of Contemporary Art, 21-22.
  11. 11.
    Berman 1988, 15.
  12. 12.
    See Berman 1988, Introduction.
  13. 13.
    Lefebvre, H. (2000). Everyday Life in the Modern World. The Athlone Press, 102.
  14. 14.
    Park, R. E. & Burgess, E. W. (1984). The City: Suggestions for Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment. The University of Chicago Press, 130.
  15. 15.
    Lefebvre 2000, 83.
  16. 16.
    Weber, M. (1958). The City. A Free Press Paperback Macmillan Publishing, 53.
  17. 17.
    Wirth, L. (1938). Urbanism as a Way of Life. The American Journal of Sociology, 44(1), 1-24.
  18. 18.
    See Berman on Jacobs in Berman 1988, 314-318; also see Jacobs, J. (1992). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage Books, Chapters 2 and 3.
  19. 19.
    David-Fox 2015, 21, 32, Chapter 2.
  20. 20.
    Hall, S. (1992). The Question of Cultural Identity. In S. Hall, D. Helf & T. McGrew (Eds.), Modernity and Its Futures. Polity Press, 277.
  21. 21.
    See more in Djurasovic, A. (2016). Ideology, Political Transitions and the City: The Case of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Routledge, 69-82.
  22. 22.
    See Berman 1988, Chapters 1, 2, and 4.
  23. 23.
    David-Fox 2015, Chapter 2.
  24. 24.
    Djurasovic 2016, 73; Milošević, S. (2017). Yugoslav Society 1918-1991: From the Stagnation to the Revolution. In Mrduljaš, M. and Kulić, V. (Eds.), Unfinished Modernizations: Between Utopia and Pragmatism. UHA/CCA, 260-261.
  25. 25.
    See Duda 2017; Vučetić 2018, Chapter 4.
  26. 26.
    Vučetić 2018, Chapter 4.
  27. 27.
    Jakovina 2012, 12.
  28. 28.
    Bell, C. & Newby, H. (1976). Communion, Communalism, Class and Community Action: The Sources of the New Urban Politics. In: D. Herbert & R. Johnson (Eds.), Social Areas in Cities Volume 2. John Wiley & Sons in Savage M. & Warde A. (1993). Urban Sociology, Capitalism and Modernity. Continuum, 104.
  29. 29.
    Park & Burgess 1984, 145.
  30. 30.
    Wirth 1938, 1-24.
  31. 31.
    Savage & Warde 1993, 101-103.
  32. 32.
    Park & Burgess, 7.
  33. 33.
    Park & Burgess, 7, 114-115, 144-145.
  34. 34.
    Cf. Berman 1988, Introduction.
  35. 35.
    Jacobs in Berman 1988, 316.
  36. 36.
    Jacobs in Berman 1988, 314-318.
  37. 37.
    Berman 1988, 316.
  38. 38.
    Lefebvre, H. (1996). Writings on Cities. Blackwell Publishers, 169-171.
  39. 39.
    Lefebvre 2000, Chapter 2.
  40. 40.
    Milošević 2017, 360.
  41. 41.
    Duda 2017.
  42. 42.
    Jakovina 2012, 7-44; Vučetić 2018, Chapter 2.
  43. 43.
    See more in Vučetić 2018, Chapter 4.
  44. 44.
    Savage & Warde 1993, 101-104.
  45. 45.
    See Park & Burgess, 7, 114-115, 144-145.
  46. 46.
    See more in Djurasovic 2016, Chapter 3; Milošević 2017, 360-361.
  47. 47.
    See more in Mrduljaš and Kulić 2009, 129-147.
  48. 48.
    As quoted in Berman 1988, 15.